Don't Be a Sucker
- Publication date
- Public Domain
- Digitizing sponsor
- U.S. War Department
Like The House I Live In, this film warns that Americans will lose their country if they let themselves be turned into "suckers" by the forces of fanaticism and hatred. This thesis is rendered more powerful by the ever-present example of Nazi Germany, whose capsule history is dramatized as part of this film. There's a great deal of good sense in this film and more than a bit of wartime populism: "Let's not think about 'we' and 'they.' Let's think about 'us'!"]
It's interesting to think of this film in the light of Cold War anti-Communist politics, which really came into their own in the year this film was made. Were the witch-hunting politicians and citizens of the late Forties and early Fifties protecting the people, or were they themselves acting like "suckers?"
Ken Smith sez: Everyone has something that can be taken away, explains the narrator of this film, and so does average everyman "sucker" Mike -- he stands to lose "America."
Mike watches idly while a street corner soapbox orator rants against Negroes, "alien foreigners" and Catholics. Mike thinks this is pretty agreeable, until the rabble-rouser adds "freemasons" to his list. Hey, wait a second, Mike says, I'm a freemason. Over wanders an elderly man with a Hungarian accent (so he says) who proceeds to set dizzy Mike straight.
The Hungarian reminds Mike that Germany was "a nation of suckers" who allowed "crazy people; stupid fanatics" to use prejudice to "cripple the nation." "We must guard everyone's liberties, or we can lose our own," he declares. "Let's not be suckers! Let's be selfish about it; let's not think about 'we' and 'they'. Let's think about 'us'!"
Good direction and an obviously decent budget make this film very watchable, and it's interesting to hear the old man appeal to our "good, hard, common sense" in that Bugs Bunny/blue-collar worker colloquial slang that was the accepted voice of Average Joe in postwar America. "America is minorities," the old man proclaims, "and that means you and me!" This populist New Deal view would disappear as quickly as evil German references in the Republican 1950s.
- 2002-07-16 00:00:00
- Closed captioning
- United States
- Run time
Subject: Captioned This for the d/Deaf and HOH
I'll use ** for scene transitions, music, and action notes.
Disclaimer: This video has not the best audio (especially when I pause and unpause each sentence), I have not the best ears, and it's 17 minutes long. But I promise I'm not as bad as the auto captions.
Narrator: Henry here got on the train with 200 dollars. He couldn't see any harm in a friendly game of cards. So what if the other men were strangers?
And take [Joe Collins]. He's got a nice wife at home. But he met this girl at the bar, and she looked  after the first couple of drinks.
*after the mugging scene ends*
*lively music (different than party IDK)*
Narrator: There's a good old fashioned word for people [like this]. We call them suckers. And there are other people, people who stay up nights figuring out how to take away what they've got.
*on the train*
There are all kinds of games- 
[Take] Mike here for instance. He's got everything . He's young, he's healthy, he's got a job. And he's got a  plenty of food.
Big factories to make things a man can use. Big cities to do the business of a big com[pany]. And people. Lots of people. Enough to work the farm and build the factories, dig the mines, run the businesses 
All kinds of people. People from different countries with different religions. Different colored skins. Free people. They can live together and work together and build America together because they are free. Free to vote, to say what they please. Go to their own churches. To pick their own jobs.
Yeah, Mike's got something alright. He's got America.
*transition off the train, where the crowd is gathered*
Narrator: But there are guys who stay up nights, figuring out how to take that away from him.
Fascist: I happen to know the facts. Now friends, I'm just an average American. But I'm an American American. And some of the things I see in this country of ours make my blood boil. I see people with foreign ! I see negroes holding jobs that belong to me and you!
Now I ask you, if we allow this thing to go on, what's gonna become of us real Americans?
*his speech fades into the background*
Hungarian Immigrant: I've heard this kind of talk before but I never expected to hear it in America.
Freemason: [This fella] seems to know what he's talking about.
Fascist: What are we real Americans going to do about it? You'll find it right here in this little pamphlet. The truth about negroes and foreigners! The truth about the Catholic church!
*he fades out again*
Hungarian: [Are you believing] that kind of talk?
Freemason: I dunno...it makes pretty good sense to me.
Fascist: And I tell you, friends, we'll never be able to call this country our own!!! Until it's a country without. Without what?
Crowd Guy: Yeah, without what?
Fascist: Without Negroes. Without alien foreigners. Without Catholics. Without Freemasons! You know these people...
Freemason: Masons? What's wrong with the masons? I'm a mason! Hey, that fella's talking about me!
Hungarian: And that makes a difference, doesn't it?
Fascist: These are your enemies! These are the people who are trying to take over our country! Now you know them, you know what they stand for. And it's up to you and me to fight them! Fight them and destroy them before they destroy us! [Thank you.]
*scattered applause as he steps down*
*no more music*
Hungarian: Before he said masons, you were ready to agree with him.
Freemason: Well, yes, but he was talking about...what about those other people?
Hungarian:  In this country, we have no "other people." We are American people.
Freemason: What about you- you aren't American, are you?
Hungarian: I was born in Hungary but now, I am an American citizen. And I have seen what this kind of talk can do. I saw it in Berlin.
Freemason: *quickly, somewhat suspiciously* What were you doing there?
Hungarian: I was a professor at the university. I have heard the same words we have heard today. But I was a fool then. I thought Nazis were crazy people, stupid fanatics. But unfortunately, it was not so.
You see, they know that they were not strong enough to conquer a unified country. So they split Germany into small groups. They used prejudice as a practical weapon to [cripple] the nation.
Of course, that was not easy to do. They had to work hard to do it.
You see, we human beings are not born with prejudices. [Always] they are made for us. Made by someone who [wants] something. Remember that, when you hear this kind of talk. Somebody's going to get something out of it, and it isn't going to be you.
This is not classroom theory. I saw it happen.
I saw it first in Berlin in 1942. 5 young men that I knew were standing in the crowd listening to the Nazis speak. Eric was a catholic. Anton, a student of mine, was a Jew. Heinrich owned a small hardware store. [Carl] was a farmer. And Hanz was an unemployed metal worker.
Nazi: To [all] Aryan Germans, I say [it's time] you inherited the nation which rightfully belongs to you. To you alone belongs the glorious destiny of the Greater Germany. The Nazi party will provide land for the farmer, work for the worker, and profits for the small business man. Who is getting these things now? *nastily* The Jew. The Jew who has stolen our nation and our birthright!
*screams at some points* Who makes all the money and takes all our jobs? The JEW!!! He must be shunned! He must be ostracized! He must be eliminated!
*much calmer* And the Catholics. We don't want our Great Nation run by a fallen church! We Germans will know what to do with these people when the time comes! They and their [faith] must be destroyed!
*calm again* Then there are the Freemasons. In Germany, we have no place for secret societies. There will be only one society! And that is the Nazi party. There will be no secrecy about that. [In] the new, Greater Germany.
Hungarian: One by one, he attacked each minority and he split them off, one from the other. These men were all fellow Germans when they came here today. Now they were split into rival groups. Suspicious of each other. Hating each other. They were being swindled. All of them.
But the man who was really being fooled was Hanz. He was pure German, according to Nazi standards. To him they promised everything. And he fell for it.
That's how Hanz became a superman. They gave him a uniform and [they pumped up] his ego. He wasn't just a little fellow out of work anymore; he was a member of the master race.
Hundreds, and thousands of others like him, all playing a sucker's game. They gambled with other people's liberty, and [of course they lost their own.] A nation of suckers. Hitler needed these people. There was lots of work to be done. [There were] trade unions to be smashed. Because unions [were organized and might] offer resistance. There were many political parties in Germany. These, the Nazis destroyed. They were determined to smash any organization where people might band together and resist them.
There were Jews to be beaten and killed. The Jews were not powerful, but they were a convenient excuse for all the nation's ills. And besides, a Nazi party member could [now] take over this man's store. Hundreds of Catholics were put in jail. Because the Catholic church had strength and could resist the Nazi [drive] for power. They had [split] the nation into a hundred pieces. And then one by one, they had destroyed the pieces. Over these broken pieces, the Nazis [rode] into power. One [party], one nation, one village.
These men had won their struggle for power. They now ruled all of Germany. But still they had trouble with their oldest and most persistent enemy: the truth. The found that truth does not die easily. And so they decided to abolish truth.
One great source of truth is literature. So they burned books. [20 million] of them. Many great men in Germany who were spokesmen for truth were jailed, or driven from their country. Teachers, writers, scientists. Education was discouraged. In 5 years, college attendance dropped [53%]. It was forbidden to listen to a British radio program. Or read an American newspaper. In Nazi Germany, you had to get your information from Dr. Goebbels. He knew what was best for you.
The church was one force in Germany still strong enough to proclaim the truth in public. This Catholic priest was arrested the following day on charges of immorality. The protestant church also tried to continue and fight for truth. The Nazis put this man in a concentration camp.
There were others who spoke for truth, and I am proud to say that educators were among them.
Teacher: And what my I ask, is an Aryan? I don't know, myself. But let us see, what our [present], so-called authorities have to say about it.
*he points to pictures that disprove what he's saying- pointing to a brown hair when saying "blond," etc.*
Teacher: They say he is tall...slender...blue eyed...and blond. There is no Aryan race. And more important, there is no Master Race. There are people, who may find these ideas convenient. But science cannot support. There is no scientific proof that there is any correlation between a man's racial characteristic, and his native ability or character. In all racial groups, we find the same range of potentialities. We find idiots and geniuses, we find criminals and philanthropists. We must judge each man as individual, and not by the color of his skin or his eyes. Or by the length of his nose.
*Nazis come in to drag him away*
Teacher: Come in gentlemen,  comfortable. And remember that there is no master race! That is a scientific truth. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. *gets dragged away*
Hungarian: And so for all practical purposes, truth had been abolished in Germany. A lot of my German friends wondered what had hit them. How did it happen? Where did it start?
It started right here. And this is where it could have been stopped. If those people had stood together. If they had protected each other, they could have resisted the Nazi threat. Together they would have been strong, but once they allowed themselves to be split apart, they were helpless. When that first minority lost out, everybody lost out. They made the mistake of gambling with other people's freedom. Now let's see how those bets paid off.
Carl the farmer was gambling on a better life for himself. What he got was extra hours of back breaking work. As much as a 100 hour a week. He was forced to stay on his land and produce what he was told to produce. Because now Hitler was preparing for war.
For Heinrich, who owned the hardware store, the bet didn't pay off either.  thousand small businesses were closed in 2 years.
And for Hanz, conditions hadn't improved any. He had a job now, in the munitions factory. But he worked long hours for little pay. The working conditions grew increasingly bad. And even though he didn't like the job, he wasn't permitted to leave it! And when Hitler decided the time was right, Germany went to war. Not by declaring war, but by a carefully prepared sneak attack. Once again, Hitler needed Hanz to do his dirty work. Hanz was an expert at brutality [this time.] And Hitler had decided to use Hanz and his brutality against other peoples- the Czechs, the Poles, the French, the Russians.
But in the crucial test of war, Hitler's race theories didn't pay off. His pureblooded supermen were defeated by the mongrel armies he despised.
By the British of [El Alamein]. By the Russians at [Stalingrad]. [Then on D Day] by American soldiers of every color and religion, who [smashed] across the Normandy beaches and drove on through to the heart of Germany.
For the misguided Germans who had swallowed the Nazi bait, the Nazi game did not pay off. The continent of Europe was strewn with millions of German bodies. *somewhat mockingly* Pure, Aryan bodies. Carl the farmer was left in the snow outside of Moscow. Heinrich stayed in Italy at [Sorenlo]. And Hanz, who was going to rule the world, got only a little patch of Normandy that he could call his own. *grave*
[We] must never let that happen to us or our country! We must never let ourselves be divided by race or color or religion! Because in this country, [we all] belong to minority groups. I was born in Hungary, you are a mason. These are minorities. And then you belong to other minority groups, too! You are a farmer, you are . You go to the Methodist church.
Your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing. You have a right to be what you are, and say what you think, because here, we have personal freedom. We have liberty. And these are not just fancy words- this is a practical and priceless way of living. But we must work at it! We must guard everybody's liberty! Or we can lose our own. If we allow any minority to lose its freedom by persecution or by prejudice, we are threatening our own freedom. And this is not simply an idea. This is good, hard, common sense. You see, here in America it is not a question whether we tolerate minorities. America IS minorities. And that means you, and me.
Narrator: So let's not be suckers. We must not allow the freedom or dignity of any men to be threatened by any act or word. Let's be selfish about it! Let's forget about "we" and "they."
Let's think about us!
Subject: Don't be a Sucker/Don't join The Base
Subject: A corny film with some very important ideas.
This is how we're manipulated. These days it seems to be about illegal immigrants, politics, sex, and the like. Although the film has the dramatic and corny feel of film from that era, it still speaks some powerful truths.
If you're having difficulty talking to someone about something you both care about, or you're having difficulty understanding the point that someone is trying to argue, set aside the sound bites. Set aside your frustrations, your emotions. Be calm. Listen. Think. Try to find common ground, then work from there. We all have at least one thing in common: We're all living, breathing human beings. I promise that we all have much more in common than just that, but it's a starting point.
You also need to know when to quit. Not everyone wants an honest discussion.
People who are telling you who your enemies are probably aren't your friend. Why listen to them?
"Somebody's going to get something out of it, and it isn't going to be you." Who is going to gain from you being angry and frustrated? Is being so mad helping you at all? Or is it helping the people telling you who the "bad guys" are?
Subject: Liberals take you as a “Sucker”
Subject: 2017 Trump
Subject: Absolutely Relevant In The "Error" Of Trump
Subject: Still applies today
It is not propaganda. To the contrary, the movie teaches how to recognize and reject propaganda, as was used by the Nazis to promote to bigotry and intimidation. It shows how prejudice can be used to divide the population to gain power. Far more significantly, it then shows how such tactics are defanged by friendly persuasion; that protection of liberty is a unifying and practical way to live peacefully (thanks to the Hungarian Professor).
To counter errors in some of the previous reviews: The Nazis did indeed persecute Freemasons. They were one of Hitler's primary scapegoats in Mein Kampf. Within a few months of him becoming Chancellor, all German Masonic Lodges were disbanded, their property confiscated, and their members prohibited from public service. Hitler understood that "on the level" meetings held in secret was a way for Jews to overcome prejudice and counter their loss of civil rights. Thus, Lodges provided connections that enabled the disparate groups to unite, which as the movie points out, was a threat to Nazi domination. Masons were sent to concentration camps as political prisoners. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Masons were targeted and killed during the war.
More information at
Subject: Fine example of post-war American propaganda.
The film's hypothesis, that Nazism gained power by breaking down much of society into little pieces, whithered on the spot and rendered inert by their criticism, assumes that every group attacked by the Nazis could not work with other outcast groups to form an opposition. There is nothing particularly true about the idea. It is basically ahistorical, a myth invented by the filmmakers to suit their incidental agenda.
In fact, claiming to be the alternative to both the socialists and the nationalists, the Nazis tried to put together a package of (sometimes inconsistent) promises to appeal to a large swath of German society and unite them behind a single upstart party in a most unlikely way. They vilified certain minorities and played to popular prejudices NOT because the minorities were capable of strong opposition (this was only true of the Catholic Church), but merely to exploit a preexisting list of a common enemies that would tend to unify the country by scapegoating the corrupting "others" lurking within Germany society. After the humiliation of Versailles and economic cataclysm, the German People needed scapegoats to recover their pride. Hitler saw this and used this.
This film, however, paints a different picture to serve its message that everyone is a minority and that America's strength is in diversity and further that (and this is the only powerful and mature notion in the film) tolerance is in everybody's self-interest.
What really bears remembering is that this film was produced by literally the same propagandists who spooled miles and miles of preposterously racist and dehumanizing anti-Japanese films. Same brainwashing, new ideological flavor of the moment. This film's main value today is in seeing how it was calculated to manipulate the viewer through cheap appeals to prejudice and fear.
Subject: Did They Listen?
and using the history of Nazi Germany as the object lesson for what can happen if prejudice is left unchecked. I suspect this kind of film would have excited Joe McCarthy's suspicions---perhaps it did. What's sad is the realization that many of the Tea Partiers of today and other right-wing extremists would probably find this film to be dangerous and subversive--witness their common references to our "Kenyen" president...
Subject: Very timely - Paul Craig Roberts interview with Thom Hartman
Subject: Another film about the responsibilities of citizenship
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Enemy Of The State
What are your favorites?
Subject: Excellent film showing the spread of prejudisim,
Subject: The Secret Connection btw Prejudice & Fascism
In the end, we are told, "This film will not be shown to the general public without permission from the War Department," indicating that the U.S. government felt this information should only be given out on a need-to-know basis FOR SOME REASON.
An important film to see if you're interested in waking yourself up out of "the matrix," haha.
Subject: It's a poorly put together movie with good intentions
As hard as it is to believe Freemasons were persecuted by Nazi's as were the Boy Scouts.
granted Hitler never had them killed in mass but Masons were seen as Jew Sympathizers and Nazi's hated the Scouts because they fought back in Poland.
I think masonicinfo.com is the source of my info.
Subject: What's "old" is "new" again.
Do you know anyone who still supports an official lie long after it's totally discredited ?
Sigh....here's a nice little movie that time hasn't rendered a relic of the past...it's message is as timeless as todays headlines. Perhaps a few will find rationality after a viewing of it here....we can certainly pray that they do.
Sure, you can quibble with some details, but the thesis is right on the nose, and the wise old Hungarian man gives a top-notch performance.
Beat Bush in '04!
I was very suprised to see the final screen, where the movie said it was produced by the War Office and not to be shown to the general public. Based on this, I take this film not to be a relic of New Deal liberalism, but to be part of Harry Truman's efforts to desegregate the armed forces, which was as ahead of its time as this film. This makes sense, because a film like this would not have been tolerated in the segregated south, and would have been rejected by anti-semites (a very mainstream point of view even for the educated). The unusual perspective of this film makes it a fascinating attack on mid-century attitudes on the eve of civil rights and the cold war.
Subject: Oh No! Freemasons!
Subject: Not as flawed as M.com suggests
Subject: Unity, Nazi Germany and Suckers
So far so good, the movie describes Nazi Germany in a distorted view:
1. The Nazis were a minority, which took the power by dividing the rest (majority) of the people.
2. The Catholic Church is seen as prosecuted as well as the Jews (for example!).
First, one can say that the Nazis haven't been a minority seducing everybody (or dividing all people). The majority of the people went along with the nazis! They did nothing, they participated! They are fully blamable for also being Nazis.
The second is that the Catholic church was not that affected by the Government, they even sacrificed the weapons of the military (political power often goes along with considering religous elements).
Nice film to see how people are being manipulated with right arguments, as well as changed historical facts.
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